7 politicians to watch in 2023

Written by on 3 January 2023

A number of politicians made names for themselves after historic achievements in 2022, and while the political landscape in the country remains unpredictable, some of the leaders have the potential to achieve even more if they keep the fire burning in 2023.

The politicians destined for greatness in 2023 cut across the political divide with some of the notable names featuring prominently in the two leading coalitions, Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

You can tell which of the leaders is poised for success this year judging by their influence in the August 2022 general election, what they believe in and their manifesto.

We look at some of the names to watch this year:

Samson Cherargei

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei is one of the few young parliamentarians who have brought a fresh breath of air to Kenyan politics.

The youthful, fiery and vibrant two-time Senator won the hearts of a section of Kenyans recently after opposing the government’s plans to import genetically modified (GMO) maize into the country, a time when the Kenyan Parliament seems to endorse every plan by the Executive.

'You can't reap what you didn't sow'- Cherargei defends Ruto's changes in parastatals
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei at a past press conference. PHOTO/Courtesy

The Kenya Kwanza politician, elected on the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket in the August election, led a group of politicians from the North Rift region to challenge the State’s plans to import 10 million bags of maize into the country, saying the duty-free imports would flood the local market and lead to massive losses on the part of farmers harvesting their crops.

He said the farmers, a majority of whom are drawn from the North Rift region, would not get value for their money due to huge expenses incurred during the last planting season.

“It is not fair to us maize farmers because of its wrong timing. In the Rift Valley, we are currently harvesting maize, which shall lower maize prices,” Cherargei protested in November, 2022.

The protests saw the government suspend plans to import duty-free maize for three months to give priority to local producers.

“With this year’s crop estimated to yield about 30 million bags of maize and in honour of our nation’s sacred duty to our farmers, Cabinet resolves that the farmers produce will be accorded priority access to the market,” State House announced.

The 35-year-old is seen as a perfect replacement of former Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who was appointed to the Cabinet by President William Ruto in October, 2022.

The firebrand former lawmaker was arguably the face of the Senate in the last decade and did a lot to promote the oversight role of the Senate, both inside and outside the August House.

Ledama Olekina

Narok Senator Ledama Olekina has been on the frontline championing the plight of marginalised groups in the country.

The firebrand legislator, who hails from the minority Ildamat clan of Narok, continues to use his role in the Senate to fight for the rights of the Maasai community, something that has made him attract both friends and foes in equal measure.

Olekina: I am convinced Ruto does not want GMO in Kenya
Narok Senator Ledama Olekina. PHOTO/Courtesy.

In February 2020, the 48-year-old leader found himself in trouble after making controversial remarks during a rally to popularize the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in Narok.

Olekina was arrested while leaving Royal Media studios over remarks the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) termed as hate speech and incitement to violence.

During the rally and a subsequent media interview, the senator said the Maa community had been sidelined and called for speedy action on land issues affecting the group.

Immediately after recapturing his seat in the August election, he was critical of decisions taken by his ODM party regarding leadership in parliament, saying marginalised groups had been sidelined in the distribution of key positions in the House.

Kawira Mwangaza

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza’s stay in office has been chaotic despite her huge victory in the August 2022 elections.

Mwangaza, who ran on an independent ticket, weathered the storm to trounce incumbent Kiraitu Murungi and former Senator Mithika Linturi to become the first female to hold the governor’s seat in the county.

Senate concludes Kawira Mwangaza's impeachment hearing
Kawira Mwangaza at the Senate during her impeachment hearing. PHOTO/Boni Khalwale (@@KBonimtetezi)/Twitter.

But a rift between her and Members of the Meru County Assembly led to her impeachment on December 14.

On Friday, December 30, Mwangaza survived the impeachment after an 11-member Senate committee dismissed allegations levelled against the county boss as “unsubstantiated”.

The feud with the overzealous ward representatives started when the former Meru Woman Representative offered her husband two county jobs a month after assuming office.

She appointed Murega Baichu as the Patron of the Meru Youth Service and Meru Hustlers Ambassador.

Though she said the husband wouldn’t draw a salary from the county, the MCAs accused the governor of conflict of interest and nepotism.

The accusations were further fueled by the governor’s hard stance on the management of the ward fund.

The MCAs had accused the county boss of denying them the funds to help them implement various projects at the ward level.

It remains to be seen if the relationship between Mwangaza and Meru MCAs will improve in 2023.

Johnson Sakaja

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja is one of the country’s youngest governors. At the age of 37, Sakaja has had quite a successful political career.

At the age of 26, Sakaja helped form The National Alliance (TNA), and under his leadership as chairman of the party, retired President Uhuru Kenyatta rose to power in 2013.

Nairobi MCAs to be sworn in as Sakaja finally gazette's first sitting
Governor Johnson Sakaja during a meeting with newly elected MCAs in Mombasa. PHOTO/(@JohnsonSakaja)Twitter

After TNA’s victory, he was nominated to the National Assembly and went on to be elected Senator for Nairobi in 2017 under Uhuru’s new Jubilee party.

At the height of Uhuru’s fallout with his then-deputy William Ruto in 2022, Sakaja ditched the ruling Jubilee party to contest for the governor’s seat under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

Sakaja won the election with 699,392 votes, beating his Jubilee party opponent Polycarp Igathe who garnered 573,516 votes.

After his swearing-in, the governor hit the ground running, promising to “make Nairobi work”.

Some of his big wins in office in the last few months include the closure of nightclubs in residential areas that had arguably become a thorn in the flesh of city residents due to noise pollution.

The crackdown is expected to continue in 2023 even as bar owners vow to have the orders reversed through the courts.

In November 2022, he announced free transport for school children in the city after talks with the matatu owners association.

“When I was growing up in this city, we cared for each other. Watoi walikuwa hawalipi kwa mathree, bora umevaa uniform unasimama hapo mbele ya miguu ya watu unabebwa unaenda shule (Children never used to pay bus fare, so long as you were in uniform you stood in front of passengers and you got to school),” he said.

It remains to be seen if the promise will materialize.

Sabina Chege

Nominated MP Sabina Chege is one of the female legislators to watch in 2023.

The former Murang’a Woman Representative was a key figure in the Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya coalition during the 2022 election campaigns.

Azimio principals read senators riot act over internal wrangles
Jubilee MPs led by Sabina Chege (Nominated) and Adan Keynan (Eldas) address a press conference at Parliament buildings recently. PHOTO/Courtesy

Since Azimio lost the presidency, the Jubilee legislator appears to have taken a back seat even as a section of leaders in President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza camp continue to woo her to ditch the opposition and join the government.

After a divisive campaign, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua lured Sabina Chege and other Mount Kenya politicians who had supported Raila Odinga in the last election to work with Ruto for the benefit of the region.

“We are mentoring our young leaders and we are preparing them for leadership and for great things ahead because this is our resource and it’s our responsibility to prepare them,” Gachagua said.

Hata hii Sabina Chege mtu ya Jubilee tutaweka fertiliser akuje sawa sawa (sic),” he added.

Gachagua made the remarks during the funeral service of the daughter of Chuka Igamba-Ng’ombe MP Patrick Munene in Chuka, Tharaka Nithi county.

Sabina Chege’s options remain open, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Mt Kenya politics will play out in 2023.

Martha Karua

Raila Odinga’s running mate in the last presidential election Martha Karua remains a key figure in Kenyan politics. Despite Azimio’s loss in the poll, she has remained active in Kenya’s politics and continues to help the opposition team in keeping the government of the day in check.

In November last year, she filed a case with the East African Court of Justice to challenge the ruling from Kenya’s Supreme Court that upheld the election of President William Ruto.

Karua asks Senate to reject Governor Mwangaza's impeachment
Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua at a past function. PHOTO/Courtesy

In the case, Karua and Khelef Khalifa, a human rights activist from the Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), allege that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) “engaged in multiple acts that violated the rights of the applicants and of other citizens”.

The petitioners want the court to declare that the August election was flawed.

The case will be coming up for mention this year.

Raila Odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga remains the face of the opposition in the country.

Over the last few months, the 77-year-old has given indications that he is going nowhere despite many predicting that he would retire after losing the August 9 poll.

Azimio to hold parallel Jamhuri Day celebrations
Azimio leader Raila Odinga at a past rally. PHOTO/Raila Odinga/Twitter

Raila and his Azimio team maintain that they will continue keeping the government in check to ensure the Kenya Kwanza administration delivers on its mandate.

With the ongoing attempts to create the office of the official leader of the opposition as part of efforts to support the oversight role of the group, we are likely to hear and see more from Raila this year.

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